The Official Review

“With a beautifully balanced programme, The Garleton Singers presented a concert of Hungarian focused choral music at St Mary’s, Haddington on Sunday last – 21st March 2010.

The programme opened with Seiber’s Three Hungarian Folk Songs. And what a thrilling opening it was, with the confident, unaccompanied choir singing from memory. John Brown’s spurs really did ring!

Next, by contrast, came a Liszt organ piece energetically played by Caroline Cradock.

Kodaly’s Missa Brevis is scored for choir, organ, a soprano semi-chorus and a trio of alto, tenor and bass, and it is a mark of the conductor Stephen Doughty’s confidence in his singers that all these roles were sung by members of the choir. The circumstances of Kodaly’s composition of this piece add poignancy to phrases such as “donna nobis pacem” – “give us peace” – from the Agnus Dei, as it was written whilst evading persecution from the Nazis and given a first performance during the siege of Budapest in 1945.

The work presents difficulties of balance and tuning; and the high soprano entries at the beginning and end of the work were particularly well handled. Indeed, the quality of sound from the soprano and alto sections throughout was noteworthy.

The second half of the programme started with Kodaly’s unaccompanied Evening Song and was beautifully sung. The ladies and gentlemen gave us separate motets next, and the tenors and basses really swaggered with Halmos’s jubilant Jubilate!

Finally, to Liszt’s Missa Choralis. The drama of the work came through very clearly. Particularly enjoyable was the word painting in the Credo. Again, a semichorus provided contrast and the work left a lively impression.

I appreciated the carefully contrasting elements of the overall programme and it is refreshing to hear a local choir tackling such rarely heard and challenging repertoire. It is a mark of the stature of this choir that it was presented so effectively.

The Garleton Singers can be heard again in St Mary’s at Haddington Festival time, with Handel’s Zadok the Priestst May at 7:30pm.” and other festive favourites on Monday 31

John Stone